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Saying thanks for avoiding a financial mishap

April 12, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- It was a coincidence that the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents met Friday at the university's Hagerstown campus one week after a political battle over funding for that campus ended in the Maryland General Assembly.

But the meeting, which was scheduled about a year ago, offered two local legislators a chance to comment on the weeks of haggling in Annapolis and the ultimate agreement that leaves the campus with nearly full funding for next year.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, both thanked several state officials for the work that they say saved the campus' funding from being cut nearly in half.

In March, a House subcommittee chaired by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, tried to spread the campus' $2.1 million fiscal 2009 funding among several higher-education centers.

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Bohanan argued for weeks that six centers outside of the university's system, including one in his district, were underfunded compared to the two USM centers, including Hagerstown's.

In the final weeks of the session, lawmakers reached an agreement that restored all but $100,000 of Hagerstown's funding.

Munson on Friday said that Donoghue's support for Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax increase package fostered goodwill that helped in the negotiations over the Hagerstown campus' funding.

"(Donoghue) fell on his sword for this place during the special session," Munson said.

Donoghue was equally kind to Munson during the meeting.

But Donoghue was less happy with rest of the Washington County delegation, particularly the House members.

He said Friday that the campus' funding scare was political fallout from the Republicans' suit over the General Assembly's special session.

"Some members of the Washington County delegation brought this on themselves. You challenge the budget and then say, 'Oh, can we keep our university?' We all know how it works," Donoghue said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, denied Donoghue's claim, which he called "irresponsible and unsubstantiated."

"Donoghue is delusional in thinking that the suit had anything to do with the funding challenges," Shank said by phone Friday.

USM-H Executive Director Dave Warner said Friday that he found all of the county's delegation members supportive in the battle to restore the campus' funding.

"I'm extremely grateful for what the delegation did," Warner said.

P.J. Hogan, the university system's associate vice chancellor of government relations and former state senator from Montgomery County, said Friday he is hopeful that this year's haggling over the campus' funding will not repeat itself next year.

"We've gotten assurance from Bohanan that this will not happen again," Hogan said.

In the meantime, Hogan said a legislative committee is continuing to look at options for developing a funding model for higher education centers across the state.

Hogan chaired that committee when he was a state senator.

His replacement?

Del. Bohanan.

"Hopefully it will be an opportunity for Bohanan to learn about the differences between these centers," Hogan said.

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